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May 31, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

Okay, I can understand why FOX has exclusive rights, but was there any particular reason that the Yankees game had to be played at 1:05, instead of 4:05? That's just stupid. And because of this, I got to listen to Sterling and Steiner. Ergh.

Hey, it would have been okay if it was a Yankee win, but they go out and lose. Whee. It was pretty sad, watching, er, listening to the soft-tossing Bernero shut down the Yanks. Jeff Weaver probably got knocked out of the rotation today, too, although he doesn't really deserve to be demoted. Contreras was good last night, but it was just one start against a weak-hitting team. Weaver, on the other hand, didn't pitch poorly, and suffered from some bad luck. I'm okay with giving Contreras a start next time around, but I'm afraid that the Yanks are going to place too much weight on last night's start and leave him in the rotation if he gets knocked around in his next start.

The Tigers play "small ball"--they bunt and run and all that "fundamental" crap. It's more fun to watch that style than Home Run Derby, that's for sure, but it's usually a pretty bad strategy overall. Giving up outs for an extra base is almost never a good idea, and the added value of a stolen base is often not worth the risk of losing the baserunner and the out. But for a team as poor as the Tigers, I guess that the second half of that strategy is not a bad idea. I'm still completely against bunting, but maybe taking risks in stealing bases is a good idea. You're going to lose a whole lot anyway, so losing some more isn't really that bad, and playing the odds more or less means settling for a loss. But if you get lucky and steal bases above the break-even rate, you're increasing your chances to win. Maybe by some miracle, you can put together a half-decent record, for a short stretch at least, and even though you're probably still going to lose, it's a much more entertaining product for the fans. Even if you're stealing at below the break-even rate, it's still fun to watch. But stop bunting, cause that's probably not helping at all, and it's boring, too.

So now the Yanks have to rely on the red-hot Jays to remain in first for another day. Not that it really matters. I'll be happy if they're within three games going into the next series.

Rocket goes for 300 again tomorrow, against Jeremy Bonderman. If they lose, I will react much as Billy Beane did when the A's drafted Bonderman, by combining a chair and wall to make a hybrid chair-wall, or chall, if you will. Just be glad I haven't been bombarded with Gamma Rays, folks. LARRY SMASH!

May 30, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

Hey, look, we're in first place, they're in first place again! I'm still waiting for them to send me a contract.

Although, to be fair, wins against the Tigers should count half, and losses double.

There were good things tonight, Giambi had a couple of homers, and his BA is up to .230, in fact, he has an OPS of 1.281 over the past nine games. I think he's definitely out of his slump now, and none too soon. Giambi on a tear might be enough to carry the Yankees through June. Also, Contreras pitched pretty well, although it was the Tigers. I don't think the Yankees should use this as an excuse to bump Weaver from the rotation, but I'm sure they will. Vörös works for Boston, so the Yanks front office probably won't look far past the ERA. .357 BABIP??? Oh man, I have no idea what's going on...

But, this was Detroit, and in the end, this was more or less an ordinary game by the Yanks, without any exceptional performances by anyone but Giambi. Nothing to get excited about.

Boston made a major deal yesterday that will have a huge impact on this pennant race. They traded Shea Hillenbrand for Byung-Hyun Kim. I didn't realize how absorbed in the stathead community I have become until I saw the non-stathead reaction to this trade. This is mostly because Hillenbrand is a high BA player, who always look better than they are, and Kim failed miserably in the two most important games of his life. But in reality, the Red Sox got the better end of this deal, and that's even before you consider context. Kim is simply better than Hillenbrand, especially going forward.

But in context, this really looks like a major deal for Boston. I can see the benefit to Arizona, Hillenbrand isn't much better than an average third baseman, but he's still better than Matt Williams, and it also cuts a couple million dollars off their payroll. But for Boston...well, they don't lose anything at third--in fact, Mueller has been the most productive 3B in the AL so far this season. More than that, it stop Grady Little from inexplicably using Hillenbrand at first instead of Ortiz, Millar and Giambi. They're already better BEFORE you add Kim. Add BK to the rotation, and you have a young pitcher with the potential of being a good starter, with an outside shot at turning into an ace someday. Stick him in the pen, and there's your "ace reliever" that Bill James has advocated. Bring him in for the high-leverage innings, and suddenly the BoSox have a lot more confidence in their bullpen.

This doesn't spell doom for the Yanks, or even doo. It might make the team make a foolish trade for a reliever who won't help much, but as it stands, I think the Yankees are still a better team than the Red Sox when Bernie and Nick come back.

Here's my All-Star Ballot for this week:

1st Base C. DELGADO
2nd Base A. SORIANO
3rd Base B. MUELLER
Catcher J. POSADA
Outfield M. BRADLEY
Outfield M. RAMIREZ
Outfield M. MORA

1st Base T. HELTON
2nd Base J. KENT
Shortstop R. FURCAL
3rd Base S. ROLEN
Outfield B. BONDS
Outfield A. PUJOLS

by Larry Mahnken

The King is dead. Long Live the King.

I gotta rant against a guy that most of you have never, nor will ever, meet. Although I'm sure you all know someone like him.

I am no longer the most myopic Yankees fan. That title now belongs to Rob Moses, my friend and coworker (although, since he's not a Primate, I guess I'm still tops in Bernal's book...). See, Rob today declared that not only did Jeter not almost lose us that game Wednesday (rather than Rivera, who could of pitched better, but then he could have gotten better defense), but that the Yankees have one of the, if not THE, best defenses up the middle in all of baseball. Posada, Jeter, Soriano, and Bernie. He said that. His proof? He watches them. I pointed out that they make a lot of nice looking plays because they're positioned poorly, or get a bad jump, which taints his observations. He says that they recover from that poor positioning and poor jump by being great defensive players! As if positioning and reflexes don't count! I guess it's all cosmetic with Rob. I pointed out that they don't convert BIP into outs, which is what defense is all about. He said the game's played on the field, not on paper, and that if the stats say that Jeter is a lousy shortstop, the stats must be garbage. He then pulled out this one--Derek Jeter is a "winner". He won those last two games by calling the rest of the team out. I think Bruce Chen, Matt White and Derek Lowe had a bit more to do with that...

Rob then went on to say that I'm really a Yankee Hater, because I have the audacity to see that Derek Jeter and Alfonso Soriano have major flaws in their game. I guess to be a Yankee fan, I have to delude myself into thinking Jeter and Soriano are even better than they really are. They're great, and they're really good guys, too (Chrissy met Soriano at the Yankees hotel last year--get your mind out of the gutter--and said he was really really nice. Although I think it helped that she's a babe. Sorry Alf, her heart belongs to D.J.), and if they play at this level for several more years, they'll get their numbers retired and plaques in Cooperstown, but they have major flaws in their game. Accept it.

One more thing about Rob. He said he was at the longest game in baseball history between the Rochester Red Wings (local team) and Pawtucket Red Sox. I do not doubt that. He insisted that it was at Silver Stadium. He would bet anything that it was. I bet him a dollar. Pay up, Rob.

OK, sorry, for bashing you Rob, but you are being a bit myopic. The Yankees batting average against on balls in play this season is .322, compared the the MLB average of .290*. Face it Rob, their defense SUCKS. Their fantastic starting pitching masks it--and actually people think their pitching is not as good as it is because of their defense. But it really does suck. I'm not trying to prove that I know more than you--there are lots of people reading this very blog who know a lot more about the game than me--I'm just trying to make you understand. Just because the people who played the game say something is so doesn't make it so. And if it's Joe Morgan, it more often than not makes it NOT so.

Yes, Rob, the game is played on the field, not on paper, but the numbers on the paper are a representation of what happens on the field. What happens on the field is really irrelevant unless it affects what happens on the scoreboard, and what sabermetric statistical analysis attempts to do is measure the run value of what happens on the field (as well as some other things, like prediction).

Okay, I could go on like this all night, but it's late, and I need to wake up for work early. That's all for tonight. Contreras makes his first MLB start tonight, and I think he'll do fine. But I think they should leave Weaver in the rotation, he hasn't been bad, just unlucky.

* It's 1:30am, so those might be a little off...

May 29, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

I upgraded my BackBlog account tonight, so you can post up to 1000 characters (instead of 400), and have more editing options. Unfortunately, because I made an error, I had to use a new account. So most of the comments are gone (not that there were many of them). I replaced the last weeks' comments on my own.

I doubt anyone cares much.

May 28, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

Me watching the game tonight:

"All right! YEAH! Nuts. Ehh. Hmm. Blah. YES! Damn. WHAT THE FUCK?!?!?! Hey! Woo-hoo!"

So there you go.

The reports of the Yankees demise have been greatly exaggerated, although there is legitimate cause for concern. But now they're only ½ game out of first, and they've won four of six against Boston--with Johnson out for all the games, and Bernie basically useless in the games he wasn't out. THAT is perhaps the most important thing from the past two weeks. They don't need to beat Oakland in May, or Anaheim or Seattle or Texas. They don't even need to finish ahead of them in the standings--but Boston--they are the team to pay attention to. The Yankees are going bad, but they have been able to more or less handle the team that they most need to beat.

Of course, there was the ninth inning tonight. Hey, shit happens. I don't think Rivera's really going to be a problem the rest of the year (but who knows?), so I wouldn't worry about it too much. In fact, the way Contreras and Hitchcock have pitched lately (and Osuna, bob mong), it gives some hope that the Yankees might be getting some decent relief pitching. Weaver and Contreras have flip-flopped roles, but I think Weaver will do fine in the pen, too. So there we have it, for now. Still gotta add an arm, though.

The Red Sox have a slightly easier schedule than the Yankees until they meet again in July at The Stadium (.4435 to .4452 winning %). I think the Red Sox are a little better than the Yankees right now, so they will probably tack a couple of games on their lead by then, but hopefully Bernie and Nick will be back for that four-game series. As I said, this season is FAR from over. And as I said last week, the Red Sox have blown a huge opportunity to beat up on the Yankees. Do you think it's going to be any easier for them to win in the second half?

Now step back, look past that panic about maybe not making the postseason for the first time in nine seasons, and think...isn't it nice to have a pennant race again? Hmm?

by Larry Mahnken

Alex Belth's Bronx Banter

Alex has a good comeback for the overly proud Red Sox fans out there:
As we were leaving I heard one Sox fan offer, "Who's in first place?" I told Jay, "Who ain't won shit?"
Well, let them crow about being in first place at the end of May. It's all they got.

May 27, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

Yaaay! The Yankees won! And boy, how they won! They finally got good pitching, they finally got some offense. They needed a win, especially against Boston, but also to stop the overreaction to their recent slump. Yes, they've been awful, but this season isn't over, even if they had been swept by Boston.

I cut my finger at work today, so typing is painful, and I won't write much, but today was great. Tomorrow they've got Moose going again versus Lowe, and I think they've got a shot to win this one, which would put them back within ½ game. If tonight was an indication of the offense's awakening, they could stay close with Boston until Bernie and Nick come back. But then, it was Chen, Mendoza and White out there tonight, so maybe it was just an abberation. We shall see.

No broken chairs tonight. I would probably say that I'm not the kind of guy you want to watch a ballgame with.

May 26, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

After Jeter was injured on Opening Day, the Yankees went 25-11 until his return. Since his return, they have been 3-11. I think you can guess where I'm going here.

We must kill Derek Jeter.

Hey, I like the guy, but it's obvious that his presence on this team has ruined their rythym, and that the mere thought of his imminent return sent waves of panic through the team, as they went 3-5 in the games before his return. Bernie Williams and Nick Johnson were so eager to get away from his awful presence that they injured themselves in the days following his activation. Even the ball dreads him, as shown by it's proclivity for avoiding his glove. There can be no other explanation for his inablity to get to balls hit in his area, as he is clearly an excellent defensive shortstop, as evidenced by that play two years ago where he was out of position.

Oddly, one might think that the overwhelming desire to get away from Jeter would improve the Yankees offense, as players would seek to avoid returning to the dugout by getting on base. However, after some thought, I have concluded that their offensive impotence is clearly a result of the classic Yankees unselfishness. Obviously, getting on base would allow a player to avoid Jeter for several minutes, but it would increase the time that his teammates would have to suffer him in the dugout. Ending innings quickly forces Jeter into the field, where he is out of direct contact with the entire team. Truly, the Yankees are a TEAM.

So, to get the Yankees out of their slump, we must destroy The Rangeless One. It is our only hope.

by Larry Mahnken

What happened? How does a team go from one of the best starts to...this???

You've got your major injuries. You've got your slumps. You've got a tough schedule, and you've got bad luck. A crappy bench and bullpen don't help, either. But, it's most likely that this is not an indication that the Yankees are done. To believe that (and yes, I was being sarcastic the other day), you have to believe that Giambi is a .200 hitter, Matsui hit 50 HRs in Japan by being a ground ball hitter, and that something will keep Johnson and Williams out well past the All-Star break. This team can overcome this. They have to overcome this.

I think that one of the key players over the next month is going to be Juan Rivera. I think he's going to be an excellent player someday, but the Yankees need him to be good now. They can't afford to have another out in this lineup, with Zeile playing pretty much every day in one way or another, and Flaherty spelling Posada every now and then.

Gnahr. I'm so frustrated right now, I can't really write. Damnit, they'd better start winning some games.

May 25, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

MLB All Star Game

1st Base C. DELGADO
2nd Base A. SORIANO
3rd Base T. GLAUS
Catcher J. POSADA
Outfield R. MONDESI
Outfield A. HUFF
Outfield C. EVERETT

1st Base T. HELTON
2nd Base J. VIDRO
Shortstop E. RENTERIA
3rd Base S. ROLEN
Outfield B. BONDS
Outfield A. PUJOLS

by Larry Mahnken

Here's a nice picture of a kitty.

That is all.

May 24, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

Hey, I have a great idea. Let's spend $170 million on a baseball team--but don't spend ANY money on depth. ANYWHERE.

They've got a bench full of almost useless parts. John Flaherty is a no-hit/okay-field catcher, and he's so worthless to the Yankees that they play Posada almost every day, which will inevitably lead to an exhausted Posada at the end of the season, who doesn't contribute much in the playoffs. If they get to the playoffs, that is. Ultimately, they'll release Flaherty, and replace him with someone just as worthless.

In the infield they have Enrique Wilson, who can't hit, can't run, and isn't a spectacular defensive player. And yet Torre seemingly feels the need to pinch run him or Gipson for Giambi late in games, which several times last season led to a crucial situation in extra innings with Enrique Wilson batting instead of Giambi. Todd Zeile couldn't hit at Coors, and he can't hit at sea level, either. He can't field, either, nor can he run. The outfield features Bubba Trammell, who had a good year a couple of years ago, and Chales Gipson, who I'm sure was really awesome in high school. Okay, I'm not sure, but he might have been. Basically, you've got a bunch of players who can't really do anything well. There is a place for maybe one guy like that on a team, but usually he has to play every infield position and maybe an outfield position. Kinda like Randy Velarde was in the early 90's, but he could hit a little. A guy like that frees up space on the bench for guys who do other things. The downside of Velarde was, of course, that he inspired John Sterling to sing "Volare". Thus Velarde.

Basically, the knock against the Yankees in the past few years has been that they waste roster spots on guys like Clay Bellinger. This year they're wasting several spots. And now that they've got injuries piling up, that lack of depth is giving them a crappy lineup. Today they fielded a lineup that consisted of four hitters that are doing well, two hitters that are in huge slumps, one rookie, and two outs.

The Yankees brought in John Flaherty because Torre is convinced you need a good glove with your backup catcher. Why he thinks that, I don't know, but he apparently does. They brought in Bubba Trammell to get rid of Rondell White. They brought in Todd Zeile to platoon with Nick Johnson and Robin Ventura, not realizing that not only do those two players not really need a platoon, but that Zeile isn't really a viable platoon option, anyway. Then you've got Wilson and Gipson. Wilson is understandable, he can play three infield positions, but Gipson is ridiculous. He's basically a pinch runner and a defensive replacement, on a team that doesn't replace it's outfielders in the late innings and really shouldn't be running. The Yankees would have been better served giving that spot to someone who can hit, and do nothing else. Then at least they'd have a DH with Johnson out.

But, they don't. They have an average lineup and an overrated rotation and a bullpen that makes Baby Jesus cry. Tomorrow, Toronto goes for the sweep. Monday, Boston looks to put some distance between them and the Yankees. Soon, it will be June, with Bernie and Nick not back 'till July.

It's going to be the longest June in a long time.

May 23, 2003

by Larry Mahnken


Jeter didn't play tonight, making the Yankees lineup look uncomfortably similar to those of the early '90s. Still, it appeared for a short time that the Yankees still might win, Escobar was a bit wild, and they jumped on top early, 1-0.

But Moose wasn't great tonight, and Jason Anderson and Juan "The Gasman" Acevedo were predictably mediocre. Worse, the Yankees got themselves out several times, failing to take advantage of Escobar's wildness. Now the Yankees are no longer in first place, and if they don't get their heads out of their asses soon, they'll wake up next weekend to find themselves in third.

Wells vs. Lidle tomorrow. I'm predicting another defeat. I'm going to go further than that. I'm predicting that the Yankees are going to go into a tailspin, that they're going to miss the playoffs. That Torre will be let go at season's end. That George will go nuclear, signing Guerrero and any other free agent that suits his fancy, all to no avail. That we are entering the beginning of a new dark age in The Bronx. That for the next decade the Yankees will be always competitive, never great, never reaching that pinnacle again for many years. The final curtain will fall on the great modern dynasty.

Or, you know, maybe they'll win tomorrow.

by Larry Mahnken

Forget about what happened tonight; with Bernie out and Rivera not here yet, facing Toronto's ace and with Pettitte pitching, the Yankees were pretty much set up to lose.

This week has been one for all the know-nothings who have said before...well, every season the past few years...that the Yankees are a sure thing, and that Baseball ain't worth watching anymore, 'cause you know who's gonna win. Well, in case you haven't noticed, the Yankees haven't won in over 2½ years, and things ain't looking to great for the Bombers right now. For the next month and a half, they will be without two of their best hitters. Further, their best hitter is hovering around the Mendoza line, their new high-priced Japanese import is playing like their old high-priced Japanese import, and the OBP goodness of Nick Johnson has been replaced with the game-shortening batting skills of Todd Zeile. There are many teams who would like to have a lineup as good as the Yankees will have over the next two months, but those teams tend to dream of a winning season, not a World Championship.

The lineup won't kill them, good pitching could carry this team until the bats come back. Unfortunately, while the Yankees can expect good starts from Mussina and solid starts from Clemens and Wells the rest of the season, Pettitte and Weaver have pitched with a consistency similar to Orbitz. The bullpen setting up Rivera is a motley mix of crappy pitchers. You've got overpriced crap, imported crap, flukey crap, and Proven Closer™ crap. You've also got Jason Anderson and Antonio Osuna, who haven't done much to piss me off yet, but when those are your best setup men, you're in trouble. Thats the kind of bullpen that inspires a manager to go out to the mound and talk his spent pitcher into staying out another inning. It's the kind of bullpen you would have figured Jeff Torborg had been stuck with, the way he kept his starters out there.

So, for the next six weeks, the Yankees will be fielding a team that, while it doesn't suck, certainly doesn't scare anyone. Well, maybe some Yankees fans, but not many other people. Steven Goldman told us "Don't Panic!" earlier today, but after hearing about Bernie's injury, he changed his tone to "Yeah, go ahead and panic." Will they make a trade? Of course. They're sure to bring in some bullpen help, and if Rivera doesn't hit, they'll go out and get a center fielder (Jose Guillen?). But they won't bring in any stars--they don't have the prospects to pull off a trade like that, and it doesn't appear likely that any team will be looking to dump a star anytime soon. They might bring in someone expensive, I wouldn't be surprised to see them trade for an overpriced closer-type like Ugueth Urbina. If they're sharp, they'll realize that relievers are somewhat fungible, and they'll grab someone decent for not much. But George likes the names, so we'll wait and see.

Of course, there is reason to be positive...well, not negative. Their schedule through the All-Star Break has a healthy serving of Devil Ray, Oriole, Indian, Tiger and Met, and Giambi and Matsui are better than they've performed. Of course, Enrique Wilson is better than they've performed, but you follow what I'm saying. It's not really that unthinkable that those two, particularly Giambi, could explode over the next month and a half and carry the Yankees to a 7 game lead in the East. Even if the Yankees struggle, they probably won't lose the season here. This is really bad, but it's not fatal by any means.

Mussina will have his hands full tonight with the offense of the Jays, while the Yankees will try to touch up failed closer Kelvim Escobar. Should Escobar pitch well tonight, don't be surprised if he's coming out of the Yankees' pen in a couple of weeks, giving the pinstripers TWO mediocre relievers with a lot of saves in 2002. Gotta catch 'em all!

May 22, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

Bernie Williams goes on DL

There are no swear words strong enough to convey my frustration about what has happened to the Yankees in the past week. Johnson out a month and a half, Karsay out all year, and now Bernie is out until the All-Star break. Juan Rivera will get a shot to show his stuff in left, so they're not stuck with Charles Gipson in the lineup, but this is really really bad.

The Yankees haven't really had a season of injuries like this in years. They've lost key players for a long time, but never so many at the same time.

Looking forward, the schedule until Bernie and Nick are both back alternates between easy and rough. They play Tampa Bay, Cleveland, Baltimore, the Mets and Detroit, but they also play St. Louis, Houston, the Cubs and the Red Sox six times. With good luck, they'll both be back in time for the second Boston series in that stretch. The schedule until the break isn't tough enough to kill their season, but they also might miss their shot to pad their record with these injuries.

Yes, friends, I am the most pessimistic Yankees fan in the world.

by Larry Mahnken : Yankees, Red Sox battling in AL East

Heh. Most fans are idiots.
A bad sign for the Yankees is that the Red Sox are just a game behind them in the standings even though Boston's best hitter, Manny Ramirez, hasn't even gotten hot yet.

Dom DeLuca
New Prague, Minn.
Yeah, and Jason Giambi's a .200 hitter.
Hey, Yankees and Red Sox: Don't think you are the only ones competing for the AL East title. Don't forget about the Blue Jays, one of the hottest teams in baseball.

Hey, Yankees and Red Sox: Don't think you are the only ones competing for the AL East title. Don't forget about the Blue Jays, one of the hottest teams in baseball.

Someone once said that a team is never as good as they look when they're winning, or as bad as they look when they're losing. Toronto will be a perrenial contender within two seasons, I'm sure, but right now, they're a mediocre team that'll finish at least 15 games off the pace.
Titles are bought in the AL East. Want proof? Watch the Yankees go on a buying spree if they lose a few more games. In baseball today, it is the Yankees and whichever team comes in second.

Hampton, N.H.
So the proof of your assertion is that you say the Yankees will do something in the future? Hmmm...
I think the Yankees and the Red Sox are the two closest teams in the league, but the Red Sox have one more thing going for them than the Yanks: team play. The Yankees seem to do most of their offense in one big inning with one or two good players each game.

Allen Nessen
Muncie, Ind.
So the Red Sox have the advantage over the Yankees in that they can't win with only one or two players contributing. Huh?

I think TSN prints some of these just for laughs.

by Larry Mahnken

"I am so glad I am not a Red Sox fan." - Bernal Diaz

Good starting pitching and good luck won this game for the Yankees, and put them back into first place all by themselves. They play Toronto next, who are playing far better than they were when the Yankees met them at the beginning of the season. However, they should be much easier to take on than the opponents they've faced in the recent stretch. Three of four this weekend and two of three against Boston next week could give them a bit of a cushion again, and I think they've got a decent shot to do that, if they can start playing to their level.

Which is, of course, the problem. We all know about Giambi's struggles, and Nick Johnson's injury puts The Mighty Zeile in the lineup on a regular basis. But Bernie has been frigid, Soriano's coming out of a slump, and Matsui has been mediocre all season. I'm not going to give up on Matsui yet, it's his first season in the majors, and just because Ichiro did well right away doesn't mean that Matsui necessariy has to. I also don't agree that we can forget about him showing any home run power, either. No, he won't hit 50, but once he gets into a groove, I can see him hitting 20+ by seasons end. Right now, though, 15 HRs or so seems more realistic. We'll see.

But my point is that the Yankees' offensive woes have been the primary reason for their slump this month, and much of that may be due to the fact that they've faced superior pitching. While Texas was able to shut them down last weekend, I think they can touch up Toronto a bit this weekend. Hopefully they will, and that momentum will carry over into the series against the Red Sox next week.

My parents have always been certain of the ultimate success of the Yankees over the Red Sox, probably because they've seen it so many times. Like my Red Sox fan friends who aren't jaded yet, I still have doubts. I'm an atheist, so curses and predestination are really not compatible with my beliefs, but then I'm also insanely superstitious. I'm just weird. I guess I won't be ready to declare the Red Sox dead until the magic number is zero. But in all honesty, the Red Sox probably just missed their best chance to put a hurting on the Yankees. The bullpen is in tatters, Wells had never pitched well at Fenway, and the offense is in a tailspin, and they were at home to boot. I think this series was more important to the Red Sox than it was to the Yankees, and losing 2 of 3 hurt them more than it helped the us.

May 21, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

Seriously, if the Yankees don't get help in their bullpen soon, they're going to keep losing games like this. This group starts fires easier than Charlene McGee. Basically, the Yankees have a team that needs its starter to go seven innings and leave with at least a three run lead, otherwise, they'll probably blow it before they can get Rivera in the game.

Almost anyone would be an improvement over the motley bunch they have in there. There's plenty of underappreciated relief pitchers out there waiting to be snatched up at a cheap price. Instead, the Yankees go out and overpay an okay middle reliever like Chris Hammond to be a LOOGY, something he's not, and stick with Juan Acevedo (10th worst reliever in MLB according to Wolverton) and send Reyes (4th best reliever on the team) to the minors. Urbina would be overpriced, but still an improvement, and the Yankees can afford it. What they can't afford to do is let this fantastically talented team fail in the postseason because they have crap in the one key role where you don't need to spend money to get quality.

I admit it, I'm the most pessimistic Yankees fan in the world. But I've found that when you're pessimistic, you're less likely to be dissapointed by failure, and more likely to get joy from success. And anyone who has ever seen me watch the Yankees knows that I really need to get less dissapointed by failure. I'm very emotional.

Rocket goes for 299 next against Tim Wakefield. Unless Rocket works efficiently, I can see this game getting ugly again. The Yankees better hope that Wakefield's knuckler ain't dancin', because they're going to need to score some runs.

Thanks to Jay Jaffe and Alex Belth for linking to my blog. It's nice to see that someone other than Rob Moses (who I have two of the Soriano wagers with) has noticed the Soriano watch, and that people whose writing and insight I've admired have read my blog. On the other hand, it puts pressure on me to start writing something decent. ;-) Maybe that's a good thing...

May 20, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

Yahoo! Sports - Yankees RHP Karsay to undergo shoulder surgery
"It's possible he'll be back this year," Cashman said. "But it's premature to say until he has the surgery tomorrow. If everything goes perfect, it is conceivable to have him back some time in September. I wouldn't give up hope on that, but more likely it's next year."
Oh, fuck. The Yankees need to go out an get a quality arm, and they're probably going to have to pay a premium for him.

Ken Rosenthal threw out a few names in his column the other day:
Trade possibilities include Jason Grimsley (Royals), Kelvim Escobar (Blue Jays), Buddy Groom (Orioles), David Weathers (Mets), Ugueth Urbina (Rangers) and the Marlins' Braden Looper and Armando Almanza.
Taking a look at Michael Wolverton's Reliever ratings so far this season, David Weathers and Armando Almanza seem like the best options of the group--which probably means that they'll trade for Escobar or Urbina.

The Yankees are rated the 10th worst bullpen in baseball by Wolverton's rankings, though if you take out Juan Acevedo, they're in the top half. The Yankees don't need to have a great bullpen, they just need a decent bullpen, one that you can turn to in a close game and still feel you have a good shot to win. With the strength of their offense and rotation, that should be enough. And for that, they need at least two more decent pitchers. Hopefully Contreras can turn into one, and Hitchcock has looked like one so far. Adding a good arm can only help, as long as Torre doesn't keep giving the ball to Acevedo.

Last night...yeah, sorry I didn't write after the game. I had to go see about a girl. But last night was a relief, they finally put some runs on the board against a decent pitcher, something they haven't done in a couple of weeks (unless you count Sele, who they've always hit anyway). But I don't think they're out of their slump yet, and I think they'll lost tonight, or at least not put more than 2 runs on the board. It is Pedro...

Soriano walked twice last night, although they weren't really that tough to draw. Lately it seems he's gone back to his free swinging ways as he's trying to get out of a slump. Hopefully he'll regain some of that discipline he showed in the first month when he starts hitting again.

May 19, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

Mike's Baseball Rants

Mike has a great look back at the famous Pine Tar Incident.

by Larry Mahnken

Today was an experiment in superstition. It failed.

I have never been so disgusted by a three-game performance as I was by this series. To score only eight runs against the Texas Rangers, with the offensive talent this team has, is pathetic. The Yankees and Red Sox are now tied going into Fenway tomorrow, and I'm not feeling too good about things.

In May, the Yankees have several players who are performing below average--one who has been awful (Soriano), and nobody who's been great. Their best hitters this month are Robin Ventura and Nick Johnson--who's on the DL. The rotation has been mediocre, the bullpen has been awful. Yes, they've played the AL West this whole time--the best division in baseball--but they will need to beat these teams in October. They need bullpen help, but more than that, they need a kick in the ass. This team is better than they've played the past couple of weeks.

My friend Chrissy is finally home from school, which is awesome, because now there's another person around who loves the Yankees nearly as much as I do, along with Rob and Tyler.

Chrissy loves Derek Jeter. I think you know where I'm going here. If you're familiar with this topic, feel free to skip the rest of this post, I'm not going to say anything new.

Derek Jeter is a fine ballplayer. There is little doubt that he is the greatest Shortstop in Yankees history, and he'll likely have his number retired upon his retirement. Cooperstown is likely, and likely deserved. In 1999, he was possibly the best ballplayer in the game. No, he's not as good as A-Rod. He's not as good as Nomar. He might not be as good as Tejada. But he's still damn good. He can hit. He can run. He can field.

Wait, let's back up. Can he field?

This is a HUGE controversy between statheads and regular fans. The regular fans say "Of COURSE he's a great fielder! Look at him play!", while the statheads say, "Well, if you watch him play, of course you'll think he's a good fielder, because he looks great doing ordinary things. But the numbers show that he's not getting the job done."

Okay, for you regular fans, here's something to think about. Say there's a ball hit to a certain position on the field. In Situation A, the shortstop dives, gloves the ball, throws from his knees, and retires the batter by half a step. In Situation B, the shortstop gets behind the ball, fields it cleanly, and throws the runner out by two full steps.

Which was the better defensive play?

The answer is neither. Situation A was a better looking play, at least aesthetically, and will probably show up on Baseball Tonight as a "Web Gem". Situation B required more skill, as the defensive player had to show more range in getting to the ball. But the result of the play was an out, either way. They were both, in terms of their value, the same exact play.

That's where you need to start when you're evaluating a defensive player's skill, not by how good they look, but by how effective they are. How many balls they get to, not how they look getting to them.

And therin lies the problem with Derek Jeter. The numbers have shown that Jeter gets to fewer balls than other shortstops do. Partly this is because of the Yankees pitching, which strikes out a lot of batters. Partly it is because of positioning, which positions Jeter more towards the hole, making it more difficult for him to get to balls in the hole between short and third. Mostly it is because he has bad range.

Michael Lichtman's Ultimate Zone Rating for 2002 ranks Jeter's defense as being 24 runs below an average AL Shortstop, 43 runs worse than Mike Bordick, 32 runs than A-Rod, 28 runs worse than Nomar and Tejada. The second worst SS in the AL was Cristian Guzman (honest) who was 17 runs below average. Tony Womack was 22 runs below average in the NL.

Now, UZL has it's shortcomings, just like all defensive statistics. It doesn't take positioning into account. But what is clear is that Jeter is significantly worse than the other SS's in the "Big Four", and probably the worst defensive shortstop in the American League, if not baseball.

Even worse, his strength, offense, has been in decline ever since his spectacular 1999. His OPS from 1999 onward is: .989, .896, .858, .794

Now, his OPS in 1998 was .864, and he was bothered by injuries last year, so some may posit that he's not in decline, but that '99 was a fluke, and last year was really only an off year. Perhaps, and let's hope so. He should be peaking right now, not declining.

Ahh, but it's not all bad for our hero. He is one of, perhaps the, best baserunner in baseball. Since the start of the 1998 season to the end of last season, he's stolen 130 bases against only 24 caught stealings--nearly an 85% clip. And over the last two seasons he's stolen at a rate of 91%--59 swipes and 6 throwouts.

Of course, there's all those "intangibles". As far as I can see, those come down to being a Leader, Clutch God™, and that play against Oakland in 2001. Yeah, that was a nice play, wasn't it?

Okay, as for being a Yes, he's the first out of the dugout to greet his teammates. Yes, he's really good with the press, and is never saying how great he is, and brushes off compliments with a modesty that makes you realize how great his parents must be. He's a great guy, no doubt about it. Kinda guy you'd bring home to Mom & Dad. But does that help the team win?

I doubt it. The Yankees are a veteran team, so it's unlikely that petty bullshit that goes on in the background would hurt them much, if at all. Maybe Jeter's leadership would help another team, but I doubt that also. It's really just something that you can't measure, because it's effect is so miniscule, if it exists at all, that it doesn't show up on the scoreboard.

Then there's the Clutch hitter reputation that everyone in New York gets eventually.

Derek Jeter's Career OPS: .852
Derek Jeter's Postseason OPS: .850
Derek Jeter's World Series OPS: .787

So much for that theory. The World Series numbers are hurt by a small sample size and a crappy 2001 Series (even with the homer), though.

As for the play against Oakland, 1) If Jeremy Giambi had slid, he would have been safe, and 2) Jeter shouldn't have been there. He had no business being there. He was out of position. Yes, it turned out well, but do you really want to credit a guy for being out of position. But let's just credit him anyway. That's one run. In one game. Period. Does that negate any of what we've said above?

Let me make it clear, I'm not a Jeter hater, as Rob Moses seems to think. I love Jeter. He's a great player. I have a Derek Jeter jersey that I wear proudly, and I root for him to do well every time he comes up. But he's not A-Rod. Or Nomar. Although he is still better than Tejada (slight tangent: Tejada's OPS last year was .861. A-Rod's was 1.015. Soriano's was .880, and Giambi's was 1.034. How was Tejada MVP? Oh yeah, Bonds was 1.381. That's comically good.). Anway, Jeter's a great ballplayer, but let's love him for what he is, not what we want him to be.

And what I want him to be is part of a team that wins six games against the Red Sox in the next two weeks.

May 17, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

Rangers 8, Yankees 5

Thank you, Angels. Thank you, Jeff DaVanon. Thank you Adam Kennedy. Thank you for keeping the Yankees all alone in first for another day.

Today, we let Juan Acevedo lose another game for us. Why not? He seems so good at it.

Before the season, I strongly advocated two moves for the Yankees: get rid of Raul Mondesi, or at least play Juan Rivera, and get rid of Sterling Hitchcock. So far, I'm glad they've done neither. Mondesi hit another home run tonight (although the ump didn't see it or call it), and Hitchcock was great again in relief. On one hand, I really shouldn't be all that surprised by Hitchcock's recent success, as he's never been that bad a pitcher, just overpriced, but it's surprising to see someone who has been basically given up on for two seasons suddenly pitch effectively, Tuesday's game nonwithstanding. Giambi looks to me like he's ready to break out big time, but Soriano's slump continues. His numbers are starting to look a lot like last season's again, and if he doesn't get out of it quick, they could end up worse.

And of course, there was Matsui's play. Really, I like Godzilla a whole lot. He obviously has a bit of showmanship in him, his cap continually flying off Willie Mays-style. He's fantastic defensively, but much more impressive to me, he doesn't complain. He takes a close pitch for a called third strike, he just turns around and walks back to the dugout. I was shocked that he showed emotion at getting thrown out at first the other night. He's great.

But the Yankees lost, despite a good effort in coming back. One might blame Willie for this loss, as he sent two runner that he shouldn't have, but it was two great throws that got them out at the plate. I prefer to blame Acevedo, since he sucks so much, and keeps getting put in important situations, and blowing it. More proof that Saves are worthless. There's a reason that everyone passed on him, Michael Kay, it's because he's not a very good pitcher. He doesn't deserve closer money. Just because he thinks he does doesn't me you should, too.

Bill James pointed yesterday out that the Red Sox bullpen has a better ERA than the Yankees bullpen. Except that's not saying much. God, I hope Contreras can be a stopper.

by Larry Mahnken


Moneyball arrived at my door at about 12:30 this afternoon. At about 10:30 this evening, I finished reading it--and that includes breaks for lunch and dinner, and a walk to the store to purchase said meals (a roast beef sub and Stouffer's Lasagna, in case you were interested). It was that good a read. If you haven't purchased the book yet, I highly recommend that you do so.

I wasn't going to review the book. That's been done by other bloggers, and much better than I could. Besides, this is a Yankees blog, not really the place to bring this book up. And yet I feel compelled to talk about it.

One thing that amazed me reading this book is how similar Billy Beane's personality is to mine. Except for the whole brilliant understanding of baseball thing, that is. He struggles with failure, allowing his emotions to get the better of him, he longs for recognition and approval. He believes he's the smartest person in the room, that he knows something others don't (I have this same attitude, although I'm not sure why). He has a difficult time watching his team play, especially when they're not winning. I indentify with him.

As a Primate, it's pretty cool to see Baseball Primer mentioned in the book (page 235), it makes you feel like an insider somehow. And insider to the outsiders. Also, if you're still wondering why Beane traded Giambi for John Freaking Mabry, the book tells us why (page 200)--and also that Beane didn't want Mabry to play at all after he accquired him. "Mabry's a great guy," he says, "but sooner or later Tattoo's going to show up and take him off the island."

But this book isn't really about Billy Beane, it's about the Athletics. More than that, it's about the movement the A's are the forerunners of, the background of it, the meaning of it, and the future of it. Rob Neyer said that it's the kind of book that won't have an impact for another ten years, and judging from the reaction of "insiders", he's right. The book challenges their authority as experts on the game, and they are entirely unwilling to accept that they might be wrong, but the younger, more impressionable audience--the ones who will be running the game in the future--can see the obvious truth in it. It's not right because Billy Beane says it's right, it's right because the results prove it's right.

Primer linked to an article by Tracy Ringolsby today, and while the conversation quickly shifted, as it always does on Primer, and there wasn't really room to comment on the article.

But I wanna. And this is my blog, so I'm gonna. Nyah.
Two things are apparent in the recently released book Moneyball, The Art of Winning an Unfair Game.

Oakland general manager Billy Beane's ego has exploded, and author Michael Lewis has a limited knowledge of baseball and a total infatuation with Beane.
Michael Lewis has a limited knowledge of baseball because the things he say don't agree with the things that Ringolsby believes. Except Lewis is right. Moneyball isn't really much of an analysis as it is a compilation. I found little in the book to be remotely enlightening, which speaks to this fact. The ideas that Lewis puts forward aren't his own, nor does he claim that they are. Anyone who's read Rob Neyer, Prospectus, Primer, and knows and understands them.

Nor should Beane be attacked for having an "exploded" ego. He gave Lewis full access to the front office, but it doesn't seem that he tried to get Lewis to cast him in any sort of positive light. It's obvious that he didn't like his scouts talking to Lewis about what a great talent he was, and yet Lewis did. This wasn't Billy Beane's book.
There is a chapter devoted to Beane's brilliance in acquiring left-handed reliever Ricardo Rincon when the truth is Cleveland GM Mark Shapiro was willing to give Rincon to anyone who would take his contract.
No, there's a chapter devoted to Beane working the phones trying to make trades. It states quite clearly that Shapiro was making a salary dump, what it does show is how Beane was able to both lower the cost to accquire him by floating Venafrom out there for the Giants and Mets. Read the book again, Tracy, if you read it at all.
Beane would like to fire his amateur scouting staff, according to the book, and rely totally on computer printouts from assistant GM Paul DePodesta on college stats in deciding whom to draft each June. Lewis praises the approach, which means not drafting high school players and not signing Latins because they have no college track record.
First off, the book just says that Beane "flirted" with the idea of firing his scouts and running the draft off of DePodesta's computer, not that he seriously considered it. Aside from that, Latin American ballplayers except for Puerto Ricans aren't drafted. Oh yeah...
There's no arguing that the college player is a safer gamble than the high school player, but if Beane and Co., have so much stronger a grasp of the game than the rest of baseball, why doesn't he use his supposedly vastly superior intelligence to determine the differences between the successes and failures among the highly-touted high school players.

How does a team find a Derek Jeter or Alex Rodriguez instead of wasting a high pick and a lot of money on a Billy Beane, whose mental toughness as a player never matched his physical skills?
Ahh, now you're onto them, Tracy. Because Beane hasn't been able to figure out what nobody else has been able to figure out, how figure out how a ballplayer will react under pressure, he's an idiot. Right Tracy? The reason they don't want to draft high school players is that it's better to just not bet on high school picks early, when so many of them bust and there's no definitive way of determining which will or wont. Some people try to say that there's no increased risk in drafting a high school player because the numbers bear out that just as high a rate of high school players make it in the majors as college players, they ignore the fact that which ones will make it is much harder to figure out before they're drafted. The A's can't afford the risk, so they don't take it.
And isn't it strange that the two best players on Beane's team aren't products of college programs - Eric Chavez, signed out of high school, and Miguel Tejada, signed at the age of 17 out of the Dominican Republic?
Well, only if you ignore Zito, Hudson & Mulder, that is. Besides, the A's system doesn't say that high school players can't pan out--after all, college players were once high school players--but that it's tougher to figure out which ones will. Sure, you can make a killing on the stock market buying high-risk stocks, but you're also likely to lose everything. The A's can't afford to take that risk.
Beane takes credit for drafting Barry Zito, but that had nothing to do with player evaluation. Ben Sheets was the A's target, but they didn't have the money in their budget to sign him and settled on Zito instead.
They didn't "settle" on Zito. Beane told them to take Zito. They didn't want to take Zito at all. THAT'S the point.
And if Beane was so sold on catcher Jeremy Brown last June, and so convinced no other team had any interest, why did he use a high draft pick on him and pay him $350,000, when he could have been signed for $5,000 as a college senior taken late in the draft?
Because I'm pretty sure that J.P. Riccardi would have another pick before the late rounds.
And Lewis left one major question unanswered:

How many world championships has Beane overseen as a general manager?

Heck, the A's haven't even been to the World Series in the Billy Beane era.
You didn't read the last half of the book, did you Tracy? For one, only the Yankees and Angels have been to the World Series from the AL in the Billy Beane era, which doesn't leave a lot of room for other teams, and the other, of course, is that the postseason is a crapshoot. The A's have won nearly 300 games in the past 3 seasons. With a combined payroll less than the Yankees' payroll last season. But of course, because he hasn't won the World Series, he must be an idiot.

I'm sure Billy Beane is thrilled that there are people like you out there. He hopes that some of them are running Major League Baseball teams.

May 16, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

MLB All Star Game

Third Ballot:

1st Base C. DELGADO
2nd Base A. SORIANO
3rd Base B. MUELLER
Catcher J. POSADA
Outfield R. MONDESI
Outfield B. WILLIAMS
Outfield C. EVERETT

1st Base H. CHOI
2nd Base M. GILES
Shortstop E. RENTERIA
3rd Base S. ROLEN
Catcher M. PIAZZA
Outfield B. BONDS
Outfield J. CRUZ, JR.

Nick Johnson's injury pretty much eliminates any chance of his making the team this year. Also, I wrote Everett in as an OF again because even though he's listed as a DH. Edgar's more deserving, but Everett--who's played the OF all season--is very much deserving of the spot. Even though he's an ignorant asshole.

by Larry Mahnken

Yahoo! Sports - Johnson out four-to-six weeks with injured hand

This is bad. This is very, very bad.

The Yankees have just lost perhaps their best hitter so far this season for at least a month, and that being a month where they will be facing some exceptionally good competition. This could be huge. I don't really see how they're going to fill this hole. Zeile has been acceptable so far this season, as has Trammell, but I don't know how much I trust them to step into the DH slot for the next month. It also severely cuts into their shallow bench, and hurts their defense.

But they were able to survive losing Jeter for a month and a half, so perhaps they can get past this. Jeter has been hot, and I think Giambi will break out of his slump soon. Boy, I hope they get past this.

Particularly worrying is that Johnson is suffering another hand injury. He's suffered several such injuries in his young career, establishing a disturbing pattern. Hopefully he'll come back healthy and get back in the groove quickly, but with two series coming up against Boston, this is bad.

May 15, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

If only they had faced Sele in the ALDS last season, we might be talking about the defending World Champion New York Yankees...

I wouldn't place too much emphasis on the performance of the Yankees tonight, since they were facing a pitcher who they've beaten several times. I'm also not going to go out and say Soriano's out of his slump because he went 2/4 with a homer and triple. What is encouraging is that he took two balls deep to left field, which does give me hope that he'll be back in a groove by Monday, when the games really count.

Steve Karsay has suffered another "setback", and might be out for the season at this rate. In the past three seasons, the Yankees have let Stanton, Mendoza and Nelson leave as free agents. Nelson's departure probably cost them the title in 2001, and while Stanton and Mendoza have had their struggles, they certainly appear more dependable than the motley bunch in the pen this season. The Yankees are certain to go out and get more relief somewhere, but they haven't traded for a quality bullpen arm since Graeme Lloyd, so I don't have much faith that they'll plug the holes. Someone needs to step up.

Today was my last day of classes for the semester, and having no exams, I can now look forward to having the rest of the summer off. Well, I do need to get a second job--Wegmans doesn't pay much--and I really need a roommate. If anyone from the Rochester area is reading this and wants to share a place with an annoyingly obsessive Yankees fan, send me an email.

With school out of the way for now, I'm looking forward to having the day off from work without some important project stressing me out and eliminating my leisure time. Fortunately, Moneyball arrives in the mail tomorrow, so I'll lounge around and read that tomorrow afternoon. In the evening, I'll watch the game, unless it gets rained out (which I will become extremely bitter about should it happen). I'll also be able to spend the day reading most of the threads on Primer and, which I haven't had the opportunity to do in quite a while. Maybe spend a while talking online to the lovely lady who I'm trying to get with (who is most definitely out of my league), more likely spend a longer while complaining online to my other friends about how my efforts to get with this lady are coming to naught. And perhaps embarrasingly trying to account for my talking about her on a weblog she is not entirely unlikely to take a glance at, thus revealing all my evil plans for her.

She will be mine. Ahh, yes. She will be mine.

Hey, I stopped talking about baseball, didn't I? Sorry about that...

There was an interesting post on Baseball Writing today about Giambi's slump. Joe posits the theory that Giambi's performance has declined because he's not getting pitched around in New York like he was in Oakland. That might make some sense, he was walked intentionally 24 times in 2001, only 4 times last season. But David Grabiner wrote an essay some time ago that basically shows that protection has little effect on a batter's hitting ability. I find it unlikely that someone of Giambi's obvious skill would be unable to hit more hittable pitches, and consider it much more likely that his struggles are a result of an early decline, as many predicted, as well as a combination of the knee injury and staph infection, and maybe a genuine slump thrown in for good measure. The latter two will pass, the former not so much. Giambi will probably be one of the better hitters in the league again once his injuries heal, but it's legitimate to question how effective he will be in the next few seasons. With the luxury tax in effect, the Yankees can't really eat salaries like they used to, unless they really are going to make $200 million a year from the YES network. I have a sinking feeling that the Giambi and Jeter contracts are going to keep the Yankees from being able to hold onto either Soriano or Johnson when they come up for free agency, maybe both (I'm guessing Soriano, as he'll probably sign for $20 million+).

So Rocket goes for 299 tomorrow night--maybe. The forecast calls for showers throughout the day, but it should slow to a drizzle by gametime. Hopefully the field will be in good enough condition to play (although I have a feeling the Yankees aren't too eager to get this one in). I for one would like to see Clemens win 300 at Fenway, because it would be appropriate, and it would be interesting to see if they boo or cheer him. If they cheer him, then they deserve to see their old hero reach the milestone in front of him, and if they boo him, they deserve to see their old hero beat their team. So, you can't go wrong either way.

May 14, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

Angels 5, Yankees 3

Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a slump. A slump by Soriano, and a slump by the Yankees.

First, Soriano. In his last 11 games, his OPS is .417. THAT'S HIS OPS. He has only two extra base hits this month, both home runs, both against the Mariners. Strangely, as I've mentioned, he's drawn 5 walks in this time--which is the same as the number as hits he's gotten. Tonight was understandable, his father just passed away today, but I think it's time to drop him in the lineup, particularly considering how well Nick Johnson was doing in the 2-slot. When someone is as hot as Johnson has been, you want to get him more PAs, not less. But Torre has his set lineup, and unless someone gets hurt, he seems unlikely to change it.

Why have the Yankees been in a slump? Well, that's simple. 1) Their offense and starting pitching cooled off, as was inevitable, and their weak bullpen and bench have been exposed. 2) They've played a team which won 116 games two years ago, a team that won 205 games over the last two years, and the defending World's Champions. This ain't an easy stretch. But 3-7 is pretty sad.

I really hope they can snap out of it by Monday, because the Yankees really need to put some breathing room between themselves and Boston. It's been pointed out that Boston is lucky to have the record they do, especially considering how poor their pen has pitched, but it should also be said that the Red Sox are a better team than they've played so far, and are likely to keep pace with the Yankees most of the season. These games are important.

Most of my traffic here has come through Baseball Primer, so I kind of know what my audience is--intelligent fans for the most part. However, I'm not a sabermetrician by any means; I've never read a Bill James Abstract (*GASP!*), except the NHBA, I've only flipped through Hidden Game a few times, and my understanding of statistical analysis is rudimentary at best, at least for a Primate. But since I've been reading Primer for a year and a half now, most of the topics I can think about writing feel to me like they've been done to death. I'm not going to come up with anything groundbreaking here, I'm not likely to produce anything worthy of a Clutch Hit. Still, I hope to write something that is interesting to read for the typical Yankees fan, and to share a little bit about my love for this baseball team. And my undying hatred of the Boston Red Sox. I do hate them so. Hopefully, my writing will improve, I'll find my voice, and this will be a worthwhile blog to read. Until then, sorry about the crap that might pop up, I do want to make sure I post daily.

May 13, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

Angels 10, Yankees 3

You'd think as I got older, I'd be more even-keeled, and I wouldn't take the losses as hard. You'd think. I didn't take this loss too hard, but I did throw a chair last October, and I killed a coworker on Sunday. Well, maimed. But they're still in ICU, so let's not lose hope.

Unfortunately, as I've gotten used to the Yankees being the best team in baseball, I've gotten less tolerant of failure. It's a damn shame, too, because I get less enjoyment out of the victories now, too. I wish I could go back to the days when the Yankees sucked, and a three-run homer to win a game in the bottom of the ninth would have me floating for a week. Yeah, cry me a river. It's like asking to be an awkward teenage virgin again when you're dating a supermodel.

Not really much can be said about tonight's game. It was only a matter of time before Mussina pitched a lousy game, at least it was against the Angels and not the Red Sox.

May 12, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

The Advocate - Off Day Will Consist of Many Doctor Visits

Well, that makes sense then:
Bernie Williams started at designated hitter yesterday due to a left knee that he described as "a little swollen, a little stiff." He said he didn't remember how he injured the knee - "I banged it up about two weeks ago" - and that it didn't get worse yesterday.
Still, maybe the Yankees should have tried Matsui in center and put Trammell in left, rather than have the automatic out in the lineup, especially if you're going to play Flaherty. Still, maybe I shouldn't second guess a two-time Manager of the Year who's won four rings.

May 11, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

Didn't get to watch the game today, either, though I did listen to some of it at work.

John Flaherty? Charles Gipson? Did Joe want to lose this game? This was the kind of lineup you run out there in a day game after a night game on getaway day with a game the next day, not against Mark Mulder. Seriously, Joe needs to learn how to assemble a roster, or they're going to keep having games like this.

I've got nothing else to talk about today. I've got a book report due Tuesday, and I'm really tired.

by Larry Mahnken

MLB All Star Game
Forgot to submit votes for this past week.

Here they are:
American League
1st Base C. DELGADO
2nd Base A. SORIANO
3rd Base H. BLALOCK
Catcher J. POSADA
Outfield R. MONDESI
Outfield B. WILLIAMS
Outfield C. EVERETT

National League
1st Base T. HELTON
2nd Base J. VIDRO
Shortstop E. RENTERIA
3rd Base S. ROLEN
Outfield B. BONDS
Outfield J. CRUZ, JR.
Outfield J. EDMONDS

May 10, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

Sadly, I haven't seen the last two games the Yankees played against Oakland (yeah, I need TIVO*. But, priorities...). I went to a friend's birthday party Friday night, which I didn't particularly enjoy. Bunch of teenagers getting drunk and smoking pot. Wheee. I just sat in the corner and drank a soda. But it was my friend's birthday, so I stuck around for a couple of hours until we had cake and she opened the presents. And I missed the game.

Today I had to work. Glad to see they won, though, and that Rocket still has a chance to win 300 at Fenway. I wonder if they'll cheer or boo? They'll probably boo him, most Red Sox fans aren't known for their class (what's that saying about people in glass houses?). It appears that Giambi has an eye infection that's been bothering him for a couple of weeks, which might explain his slump. Or not. Hopefully he plays tomorrow, cause I see the A's having the advantage in tomorrow's matchup (Pettitte vs. Mulder).

The Yankees really need Giambi or Matsui to break out of their slumps big time, because Soriano and Bernie have dropped off quite a bit. Fortunately Jeter's back Tuesday, but he'll probably be slow out of the gate. At least we get rid of Almont-E.

Jose Contreras pitched here in Rochester last Friday, and won 7-3, shutting the Red Wings out for five innings. However, the Wings had a plane delay that caused them to arrive at the ballpark only 30 minutes before gametime, so that should be taken with a grain of salt. Local writer Scott Pitoniak wrote a column about Contreras today that wasn't too bad, although Scott tends to write like me, in short paragraphs. At least his might read well if stuck together. But back on topic, the Yanks need Contreras to be a stud in the pen. Not just pretty good--stopper good. They can't rely on their starters and offense to carry them in the big games, they need someone to get the big outs before the ninth inning, and seeing how the Yankees aren't likely to change to the Bill James model anytime soon, they'll need Contreras to step up or Karsay to get healthy and effective quick. God knows Rolando Arrojo ain't gonna be the guy.

El Duque hasn't done anything for the Expos so far this season, literally. He's been injured all season, and will undergo arthroscopic surgery on Monday which might end his season. I thought before the season that Hernandez would be excellent out of the pen against righties, but the Yankees dodged the bullet in trading him, even if Osuna doesn't do anything good for them. Keeping Colon away from the BoSox is just an added bonus, although he hasn't been particularly impressive so far this season (and neither have the ChiSox).

Okay, I have to confess, I don't hate the A's. Um, er, actually, they're my second favorite team. By a whoooooooooole lot, mind you, and I hate their fans, but I guess I'm just a Billy Beane fan, and I like to see Bud Selig look stupid. Along those lines, Moneyball is coming out soon (or is out in some places), and I'm really looking forward to getting it. If you're interested in getting it from Amazon, I'll ask you to click on this link and buy it through Aaron Gleeman's referral, because his blog kicks so much ass.

*Yes, I know I can just tape the game on my VCR. It's just a major pain in the ass.

May 9, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

Yeah, Jeff Weaver sucks. He'll never be able to throw a perfect game.

Wow, it seems like whenever I say someone's struggling in any way, they have a big game. Giambi goes 2 for 4 with a homer, Soriano is 3 for 6 with a homer. Even Almont-E got a couple of hits. This past series was incredible: 30 runs in 3 games, versus the Seattle staff, at Safeco Field, one of the best pitchers parks in the game. I was honestly, shocked. But I don't think they'll keep it up in Oakland. And I'm only half saying that because they seem to do the opposite of what I say.

One of my favorite new features on my favorite site--Baseball Primer--is the Game Chatter. Fans of both teams show up to chat about the game, giving a different perspective on what's happening, and it's much better than watching it alone. So very, very alone. Why doesn't anybody love me?

Ahem. I expect the fans to boo Giambi again tonight. I can't stand when fans boo a player who left as a free agent. They boo Giambi, Indians fans boo Ramirez, Yankees fans boo Nelson, EVERYONE boos A-Rod. I'm sorry, but what the hell are you booing them for? That they went somewhere else? You don't have an exclusive right to have a ballplayer, they owe you nothing. In fact, most of these guys played for your team for less than market value the whole time they were there. If you're upset that Giambi's gone, turn around a boo the owners. Of course, then you shouldn't boo when Giambi's a mediocre first baseman in a few years.

One of my proudest moments as a Yankees fan was when fans at The Stadium gave David Cone a standing ovation as he came in to pitch for the Red Sox for the first time, and as he walked off the mound for the last time later that year. Appreciate what he did for your team while he was there, don't hold his career choices afterwards against him. Fans are way too full of themselves.

May 8, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

Well, there was so much good about last night's game.

The first, of course, is Moose. He was unbelievably brilliant last night: 8 innings, 2 earned runs, 12 strikeouts, NO walks. Aside from being 7-0 with a 1.70 ERA, Moose has given up only two homers, and has struck out 63 this year against only 8 walks. This is the guy the Yankees paid so much for, the guy they need in the postseason. Obviously he's not likely to keep it at this level all season, but it definitely looks like Mussina is going to be fantastic this season, and could win the Cy Young.

Godzilla finally had a big game with a double and an important homer, his first since April 14th. It figures that the game after I say they should sit him he has a great game. You suck, Hideki. Keep it up.

And Giambi had a couple of hits, but I don't think that's going to get him out of his slump. Surfing the news stories this moring I saw this in the Newark Star Ledger:
Things have gotten so bad that there even have been internal discussions in the organization about allowing Bob Alejo, Giambi's friend and personal trainer, to have the clubhouse access he was allowed last year.

"It's something to think about, if it really would help Jason," a Yankees official said.
I doubt that's really the problem, but if it'll help him relax more, then it's not really that bad an idea.

Speaking of slumps, Soriano's in a doozy of one. He's 5 for his last 33 (.152) with one extra base hit, his homer against Seattle last Thursday, but he also has 7 BBs in that span.

Wow, did you ever think you'd see Soriano have an extended streak where he had more walks than hits? Hopefully this slump won't put him off the whole plate discipline concept.

And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention OBP Jesus: Nick Johnson. 3 for 5 with a homer (no walks, though). His OBP is .473, his OPS is 1.028, and he's just gonna get better as he starts hitting with more power. And he's on the cheap for the next few years, too! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!! Screw you <insert every other baseball team's name here>!!!

I'd also like to extend my thanks to Baseball Primer, Aaron's Baseball Blog, and for adding links to my site. Hopefully I'll write something worth reading eventually.

by Larry Mahnken

Yankees 7, Mariners 2

No time for an update tonight, I've got a paper due in the morning that I need to finish. I'll try to write something later.

May 7, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

Mariners 12, Yankees 7

Yikes. Three game losing streak. 2-3 since I started this blog. It must be me.

On the bright side, they did get into the bullpen early, which might pay off in the next two games. Although they only got 18 pitches out of Rhodes and 13 out of Nelson.

Almont-E's gotta go. His offense has been weak, but it's his defense that's killed them. He's not only not getting to the ball, he's screwing up easy plays. Tonight he ran into Zeile while he tried to make a play, and an earlier error led to three unearned runs. I don't see how Enrique Wilson could be any worse. Fortunately, Jeter should be back soon.

Why the hell wasn't Nick Johnson playing? He's only had 16 ABs vs. lefties this season, but how is he going to improve against tough lefties if he doesn't play against them? And why wasn't he in there in the eighth against Nelson?

I think Torre should shake things up a little. He said he doesn't want to take Godzilla out of the lineup because of his consecutive games streak (here and Japan), but these aren't the early '90s Orioles, who could afford to live with a slumping Ripken to keep the streak intact, the Yankees need production out of Left Field. I'm not saying to bench him, but maybe plug Trammell in left a few times instead of sitting Johnson. At least move him down the lineup.

Well, the Yankees are finally coming back to earth. Soriano's in a honest-to-goodness slump (amazingly, just as his walk rate has surged), and Giambi and Matsui haven't rebounded to counter that. Coupled with improved competition, the Yankees should be in for a challenging stretch. And I think it's safe to discount the likelihood of 117 wins now. The Yankees seem certain to have a great record, but nothing historic is likely to happen.

by Larry Mahnken

Cablevision and YES Disagree

Here we go again...

Both sides are being disingenuous here. The Yankees only want to be on basic so they can get the most money possible, Cablevision wants them to be premium so they don't have to absorb the cost. It has nothing to do with what's best for the fans.

What would be best for the fans would be for the Yankees to be on basic and the rate to remain the same, so you could say the Yankees are the ones on the side of the fan, but they're not really. It's all about greed.

Now the dispute has moved to an argument over subscriptions. Cablevision insists that between 95,000 and 171,000 New Yorkers have signed up for YES, YES says the number is closer to 430,000.

This is a dispute over $653,250. Or about half of what the Yankees bring in in revenue per game. And over this Billionaires' Chump Change, New York City Yankees fans are getting screwed around with.

May 6, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

Alfonso Soriano Wager Watch

I have a few wagers out on Alfonso Soriano this season with a couple of friends at work. I wagered a lunch that Soriano won't hit .300, another that he won't hit 40 HRs, and another that his Runs Created (simple OBP x TB formula) will drop at least 10% unless his walk rate doubles.

So, I added the relevant numbers to my sidebar. I'll try to update them daily, so you can watch as I lose my lunch.

Yeah, that was lame.

by Larry Mahnken - Working the Count: The Season of Soriano - New York Yankees Coverage

I was hoping for some speculation on why Soriano has improved so much this year when I clicked on this article, but it's just a rundown of his numbers, without any real analysis. This part stood out to me, though:
Offense is great, you might say, but a sure handed second baseman is vital to a team’s success. Soriano’s defense has been criticized in the past. Well, there’s improvement there as well. Soriano has made only two errors thus far this season, and is projected to make 10 this season (down from 23 last season). His fielding percentage is currently at .986, up from .968 in 2002.
His Range Factor, however, is 4.53--23rd among eligible second basemen in MLB--and down from 4.55 last season. His Zone Rating is .769--24th among eligible second basemen in MLB--and down from .813 last season. Perhaps Soriano's defense has improved, but it's not showing up in the numbers yet.

With defense, errors and flashy plays are overrated. The primary job of a player on defense is to convert every ball hit into his area into an out. Almost every ball that drops in for a hit is an error on his part. And getting to the ball and recording the out is the important part, not how flashy you make it look. This is likely why Jeter has a reputation as an excellent defensive shortstop: He doesn't make as many plays as he should, but he pulls off a lot of flashy plays.

Defensive statistics are severely flawed (See Mike Emeigh's 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8 part series on Baseball Primer), but if you're gonna use them, at least use the better ones.

May 5, 2003

by Larry Mahnken > Sports -- Selig's latest move makes little sense

And his other moves do?

This article doesn't really have anything to do with the Yankees, but I found it amusing.

May 4, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

Random thoughts that fell out of my head

So now, if Rocket wins his next two starts, he'll be going for 300 at Fenway Park. Wouldn't that be perfect? (and please note that I didn't say ironic. Because it isn't, and if you think it's even close to being ironic, you're an idiot.)

The Yanks lost their first series of the season today, which is of course my fault, because I mentioned it yesterday. Their record is now 23-9, which is a bit closer to reality. The other day the YES crew was discussing the possibility that the Yankees might actually be better than they've played so far. After all, Jeter's out, Karsay's out, Rivera just came back, Giambi's in an awful slump, as is Godzilla. Well, that's all true, but it really ignores why the Yankees are 23-9. Soriano, Johnson, Williams, Posada and Mondesi all have an OPS over .969, and the starting rotation has been consistently excellent, pitching well and pitching long, keeping the bullpen from being a factor. All those things will turn around a bit, and more than counter the return of Jeter, Karsay, Rivera and return to normal of Giambi and Godzilla. And that's not even considering the relatively easy schedule the Yankees had in April. The Yankees are good, but they're not better than their record has shown.

By the way, I don't know if they corrected it on the broadcast, but the 1968 team did not start 24-6. I thought that sounded odd, too.

Soriano drew another walk today, bringing him up to 13 this season! Of course, he also went 0 for 3, bringing his average down to .345.

I saw a blurb in yesterday's New York Post about how the Yankees are thinking about trading Erick Almonte for relief help after Jeter comes back (I say why wait?). According to this blurb, several teams think that Almonte can hit well enough to play third.

Huh? He's barely hitting well enough to play shortstop. Eric's batting .272 right now, but it's a pretty empty .272. Giambi's .195 is only slightly less valuable. As for his defense...well, he's making Jeter look like a good shortstop. That's pretty bad. The only reason the Yankees should consider playing him at third next year is because it would make Henson look like less of a dropoff. If the Yankees can get a half-decent reliever for him, I'll be thrilled.

Yeah, leave it to me to always find something to complain about.

by Larry Mahnken - Baseball : Zito vs. Clemens: Cy Young vs. Cy Old?

I blogged this only because I liked this part:
"These are special games that seem to be more magnified here," Oakland's Scott Hatteberg said, "Cy Young vs. Cy Old."

Adam Piatt, watching the crowd of reporters around Hatteberg from his adjacent locker, then said: "They're going to print that."

"That's not that he might not be Cy Young again," Hatteberg said quickly.

May 3, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

New York Times - Acevedo Grabs Yankees' Goat Horns From Giambi (Registration Required)

Tough loss by the Yanks today, giving up two runs in the tenth after a dramatic 2-run homer by Giambi tied it in the ninth.
Had Mariano Rivera not pitched the previous three nights, he would have been the perfect candidate to pitch the 10th inning. But Manager Joe Torre had to bring in Juan Acevedo, and the Oakland Athletics' Eric Chavez pounded a juicy fastball by Acevedo even farther.
It's not easy to find a major flaw with a team that's 23-7, but there's one with the Yankees, and it's their bullpen. Even when (and who knows when?) Karsay comes back, the Yankees have issues with bullpen depth. The success of their starters has hid the weaknesses of the bullpen thus far, and the Yankees' powerful offense has kept them from being in too many close games for the bullpen to make a huge difference. But against the better teams, the Yankees are going to have to win the close games, and to do that, their going to have to get better work out of their bullpen. For this reason, I can see the possibility of this team winning 117+ games, but not winning the World Series.

It was nice to see Giambi break out of his slump a bit, going 2 for 4 including the big homer in the ninth. The Yankees have been fortunate that they've been so successful despite Giambi's slump, and you know he's going to bat around .300 with 35 homers at the end of the season, so there's probably good things ahead when they need it the most.

A couple of days ago I wrote about Fo-So (as a guy who used to be my friend called him. He's not my friend anymore because he screwed me over when he was my roommate, taking all of his stuff--and some of mine--and going to live with his mommy, leaving me with a $595 rent bill that he was supposed to pay. But I digress. He called him FoSo because he thought it was silly that Mariano Rivera was called "Mo", so he called him "Mo-Ra" and Soriano "Fo-So". He's a Red Sox fan, by the way. Bleah.). Yeah, so I wrote about Soriano, talking about how hot he's been, despite not improving his walk rate. I mentioned that "Maybe it's the fact that he's facing lesser pitchers, and we should wait until the Yankees are done with Seattle and Oakland to make a judgement". Along those lines, after five games versus Seattle and Oakland, Soriano's number have slid a bit. He's been 3 for 20, with a homer and....3 walks!!!

In fact, Soriano's had 12 walks so far this season, only 9 fewer than all of last season. If he keeps up this pace, he'll draw 65 walks this season, which is as many as he's had in his career before this season!

Okay, so 5 of the walks have been intentional, but he's on a pace to draw 38 unintentional walks, which is more than Vlad Guerrero had ever drawn before last season. And his strikeout rate is dropping, too. Perhaps Soriano has become slightly more disciplined, as his strikeout rate has also dropped. Perhaps it's May 3rd...

Anyway, Soriano's OPS has dropped 86 points to 1.053 during this homestand, and his batting average has dropped 35 points to .353. Which tells you how early it really is.

Clemens vs. Zito tomorrow, as the Yankees try to avoid losing their first series this season. Damn, I jinxed them.

May 2, 2003

by Larry Mahnken - The Pinstriped Bible

More gold from Goldman. My favorite passage:
The year of illusory improvement materialized because the team enjoyed six months of clutch hitting, singles falling in at the right time, or shortstops spontaneously exploding into a million gooey pieces just as they were about to catch the game-ending line drive. Everyone runs onto the field and enjoys a squishy high five, not realizing that shortstops don't detonate every day, that it's not something that the team earned so much as it just happened, that you can't plan for it and can't depend on it.

by Larry Mahnken

MLB All Star Game

My first ballot:
American League:
Carlos Delgado, TOR
2B: Alfonso Soriano, NYY
SS: Alex Rodriguez, TEX
3B: Hank Blalock, TEX
C: Jorge Posada, NYY
OF: Manny Ramirez, BOS
OF: Bernie Williams, NYY
OF: Raul Mondesi, NYY
DH: Nick Johnson, NYY

Yeah, I'm a Homer.

National League:
Todd Helton, COL
2B: Marcus Giles, ATL
SS: Edgar Renteria, STL
3B: Mike Lowell, FLA
C: Mike Lieberthal, PHI
OF: Barry Bonds, SF
OF: Jim Edmonds, STL
OF: Gary Sheffield, ATL

I'll vote again next week, and post my ballot.